Most of us understand the
basics of creating wellness. Health begins with a sound diet, exercise, and
having fun with our loved ones. Our pets are important family members, like us
in many ways, but with their own unique animal needs and abilities. Our pets
give us so much - the unconditional love, joy and pleasure they offer us through
their loving companionship enhances our lives and makes us healthier people. But
it's easy in the hectic nature of our lives to take our pets for granted and
miss opportunities to nurture them for their optimal wellness. Creating wellness
requires that we meet the basic needs we all share, and to honor the special
needs of our pets.
We Are One, but We Are
Not the Same
Pets have special
nutritional needs, and are far more limited in their physical ability to deal
with a poor diet and the toxins in our environment. With shorter life spans and
smaller organ systems, its important to give them the best diet we can that
suits their animal physiology and to limit their exposure to toxic chemicals in
their food, and in so many household products we use. Consider choosing
non-toxic household cleaners,
natural cat litter, and safe
non-toxic bath products to limit your pet's exposure to toxic materials.
From the holistic
perspective, the foundation of good health is a good diet. Dogs and cats need
different food from what we eat, and many pets, particularly cats can have
trouble digesting the grain-based fare (like that found in most commercial pet
foods) that humans can tolerate. When their nutritional needs are met, pets have
great vitality and abundant energy, and have better digestion and can maintain
their appropriate weight, which are both causes of so many health problems of
pets today. For more information on
quality food for your pets, click
here to read our article, "What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food."
A good diet provides energy
for a healthy activity level, meaning daily exercise. It's easy to neglect the
exercise and play needs of our pets, but the consequences can be severe. Beyond
the impact on their health, too little physical activity can create a host of
inappropriate behaviors and creates a great deal of stress for our pets. Dogs
need daily cardiovascular exercise in the form of a walk or run. If you are not
walking your dog because their on-leash behavior is a nuisance, consider getting
Gentle Leader head collar or
harness. There is even a kitty
harness to take your cat out for a safe outing in the great outdoors. Both
dogs and cats need fun toys to stimulate their desire to play and stay fit. Many
dogs love a good game of fetch and there are many great
available to provide a fun workout. Cats stay fit with
that stimulate their hunting instincts, and a good
scratching post is a
must to help them stay limber.
Beyond the Basics -
Understanding Your Cat's or Dog's Nature
Another way we can honor
the unique needs of our furry friends is to consider their species-specific
characteristics. Understanding the unique qualities of the feline and canine
natures can help you create a home where your pet feels at ease and reduces
their stress levels. Most cats crave freedom and autonomy. They want a safe
space of their own and the ability to direct their own activities. Cats that
feel thwarted in their ability to play, sleep, explore and interact on their
schedule can experience health-damaging stress and develop some bad habits that
create stress for everyone.
Dogs thrive on routine and
want the stability of a secure hierarchy in the family "pack." You are your
dog's leader, and when you don't demonstrate this with consistent rules and
routines that establish your leadership, dogs can become anxious and insecure
about their role. Most dogs instinctively recognize our natural right to lead
(after all, we control the food and their access to fun experiences). Lead your
dog with calm authority and your dog will be much happier and healthier for it.
Dogs that show over-protective tendencies, pace, or bark excessively are showing
signs of stress that could be impacting their health as well as disturbing the
harmony of your home.
There are many excellent
reference books and books on training to help you understand and work
with your cat's or dog's natural tendencies. If your pet is experiencing severe
behavior issues, consider a consultation with a qualified animal behavior or
Emotional Stress and
Beyond a good diet,
exercise, and reducing exposure to toxins, the single best thing we can do for
our pets (and ourselves) is to minimize the stress they experience. The
mind-body connection has been well researched in human health, and emotional
stress has a well-documented impact on our well-being. This is no less true for
our pets, though the idea is not generally taken into account from the
traditional veterinary perspective. Taking steps to reduce your pet's stress can
go a long way to creating wellness.
Some pets seem to be more
naturally "high-strung," which may be a breed specific quality or may result
from their life history - a common story with rescued companions. Stress comes
in many forms, including major life changes, stressful situations, and daily
stress in our home and relationships.
Major life events like the
addition of new pets or human family members, death of loved ones, house
renovations, or moving can trigger stress in many pets, and the impact can be
felt for many months after the change occurs. Cats can be particularly sensitive
to these changes - even getting new carpet can cause a strong stress response in
cats. Dogs are often particularly sensitive to events that cause shifts in
relationships. It's important to provide the "security blankets" our pets need
during these times. Make sure the cat's favorite pillow or blanket isn't packed
in a box when you move, and be sure each pet has their favorite toys available.
When introducing new family members, spend extra time with your dog to confirm
their continued high status with you and to insure that they don't feel
Many pets experience
repeating but occasional situational stressors, like going to the vet's office,
car travel, thunderstorms, boarding, family vacations, or visitors in the home.
For major life events and situational stressors, there are many effective
remedies that can help your pet cope with the emotional aspects of the
Pheromone-based sprays can work well to soothe pets during
stressful times, and can be great for spraying on bedding or in crates during
travel. For pets prone to extreme physical reactions like crying, nausea,
vomiting or trembling, you may wish to consider
herbal remedies for stress
to help calm them physically. There are also several
remedies that work well, especially for pets sensitive to herbal products.
Dogs that experience separation anxiety get much stress relief from
interactive toys that keep them busy and distracted while you leave the
house, which can help curb anxiety.
Worth special mention are
flower essence products, which provide a great approach for many animals
for a wide range of stressful situations. Each flower essence blend is
specifically formulated with the essences most appropriate to address a specific
emotional experience of the animal. Bach Rescue Remedy is the classic
remedy for trauma and acute life stress.
Pet Essences has
a remedy for Travel Anxiety, and Spirit Essences offers a great line of flower essences, including
a remedy for Separation Anxietyand the excellent Peacemaker set for helping soothe relationships between
aggressive and submissive pets. For more information on flower essences, please see our article, "What Are Flower Essences and How Do They Work?".
The Ultimate Wellness
Builder - Reducing Daily Stress for Your Pet
While stressful major life
changes and trips to the vet (we hope!) are few and far between, one of the most
profound sources of stress for your pet is perhaps the easiest to overlook - the
stress that our pets absorb from us on a daily basis. One of the greatest gifts
our pets give us is the comfort they provide to us every day. People with pets
are generally healthier and live longer, because our pets not only provide
companionship, but they literally absorb our stress.
Our pets are quite emotionally sensitive and are highly attuned to our moods.
Animal communicators tell us that part of our companions' "spiritual mission" is to help us cope with
our emotions. It's important to recognize that our own stress level is very
obvious to our pets and can impact their wellness greatly. Many pet owners
report that their pets share their emotional stress, and often share the same
physical symptoms that stress creates for their own health. With that in mind,
making a commitment to reducing your daily stress level is one of the best
things you can do for your pet's health.
Dr. Anyes Van Volkenburgh,
a noted veterinarian, intuitive, and energy healer has created a unique set of
healing and stress-reducing tools to help you learn to better manage your stress
and create wellness for your pet through meditation and visualization. These
tools have been used worldwide for creating better health for people, and Dr.
Anyes has combined her veterinary and intuitive skills to help us enhance the
health of our pets. Meditation is an excellent tool to reduce stress and create
the focused state of mind that paves the way for healing and vibrant health.
Visualization is a powerful tool for using the power of mental imagery and
intention to maintain health or to address specific health problems.
Wellness is the result of
many factors, and especially for our pets, nearly every one of those factors is
under our control. Making sound decisions for our pets with regard to diet,
exercise, and activities creates the foundation for vibrant health. Adding the
essential element of reducing stress can help you give your pet a more joyous,
healthier and longer life. With everything our pets do for us and our
well-being, we owe it to them to return the favor and create harmony for them in
every way we can. The time we have with our animal companions is precious in so
many ways, and we have it in our power to honor that special bond through our
commitment to harmonious living.
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The articles and information in the Holistic Healthcare Library are presented for
informational purposes only and are not intended as an endorsement of any product.
The information is not intended to be a substitute for visits to your local veterinarian.
Instead, the content offers the reader information and opinions written by our staff,
guest authors, and/or veterinarians concerning animal health issues and animal care